Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Emma Bormann in Groningen

Emma Bormann 
visiting Groningen (Netherlands)

The works and biography of Emma Bormann (1887-1975), as an important artist, are extensively published, both in books and in the Internet. She was appointed professor teaching graphics in Münich Art Academy in 1918 and in her long life she travelled extensively creating woodblock prints of the many places she visited all over the world: highly collectable and likewise priced.

In 1922 however she travelled to the Netherland making sketches for later printmaking. In that year the "Verein für verfielfaltigende Kunst" published her print of the Academy in Groningen and therefore has become one of her best known. Finding a print signed and titled in what looks like Bormann's own handwriting and not with the VfvK publishers title and credit suggests she also stocked local galleries with signed copies after her trip. After all: world traveling costs money, even when you are born rich, earn a professor's salary and are married to a doctor (Dr. Eugen Milch). 

I have no idea if the other prints she created in Groningen were also made for the "Verein" (I don't think so) but they were created during that same 1922  trip. One of them is showing the small village of Godlinze: pretty accurate, even the garden fence (lower right) is cut and printed correctly.  

There’s at least one other signed print to proof she extended her trip also visiting the city of Rotterdam some 250 Km south where she did the "Kolk-haven". This historic and medieval centre, the heart of Rotterdam was erased after the cowardly German bombardment of the city on may 14th 1940. 

But then to my surprise I recently discovered another Groningen print. One I’d never seen before. It’s titled “Lage der A”. Which it is not. It is actually the “Noorderhaven” just around its corner, looking North. I know, my roots are in Groningen and for the last 10 years I drove past these old store houses, to and from my work in the UMCG.

The mistaken title is the more remarkable because Emma Bormann also sat sketching on the opposite north side of the Noorderhaven looking South over the city. Creating this really very nice view of the city, below. And that print I'd also never seen before. 

On the left is the Martini-tower, the tower and spine of the Academy are in the middle and on the right the tower of the "der Aa"- church. This color(ed) print recently surfaced in the Internet in an auction. To be more correct: I found it long after the auction. 

To my surprise, researching these two new to me Noorderhaven-Groningen prints a bit, I found in the Archives of the City of Groningen yet another print by Bormann and one I also never had seen before. It shows the "Grote Markt" and the "Martini"-tower, an etching and: on a busy market day.

Over the years I have found, picked up and collected several prints of the iconic Martini tower, or Olle Grize (old Gray One) as it is lovingly called by Groningen’s citizens. But not many showing the tower on a market day held on what was then one of the most beautiful and best preserved medieval market squares in Europe. Until it was destroyed with the liberation of the city in 1945.
(left: Hendrik Jochem Gorter 1905-1944 who did not survive the occupation and right: "Estgerbuh" (pseudonym for Henriette Rosina Dorothea Hubregtse (1879-1959) 

All pictures are mouse clickable to embiggen. 

All pictures taken freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. Thank you for posting these prints, photographs, and for clarifying the true location of the "Lage der A" print. Emma Bormann's visit to the Netherlands was in October 1920. She apparently spent most of this month in Groningen, one week in The Hague, and one day each in Rotterdam, Leiden, and Delft (according to an account by art historian Arpad Weixlgaertner, published in 1922 in "Die Graphischen Kuenste" by the Gesellschaft fuer vervielfaeltigende Kunst). She exhibited some works in Groningen in February 1921 with the art association Pictura. She made a woodcut of the Pepergasthuis as well, and of the Oosterhaven. The reason for the incorrect title for the Noorderhaven print is due, I believe, to Emma Bormann's working method. She made quick sketches on the spot and then, when she went home, worked these into woodcuts or linocuts. So she may not have noted on her sketches where she was standing, and later have remembered the Noorderhaven incorrectly as the Lage der A.

  2. Thank you Andreas, this all very helpful.

  3. Fascinating! I particularly enjoy how you have found pictures that correspond to the places represented in the prints. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, I enjoy these puzzles very much too. Actively collecting. Without knowing something about the background of "who made it" and trying to understand what the artist saw it's just glancing at pictures.